Crystal-clear views of the West Rim? Do the Grand Canyon Skywalk. The bridge transports you 70 feet over the edge for perfect pictures. But there's an issue: You aren't allowed to bring your camera.
The reason? The glass. Turns out that the Saint-Gobain and DuPont Sentry glass panels used for the horseshoe-shaped observation deck can chip and scratch - especially if camera equipment strikes it.
Initially, I didn't think this was a big deal. I figured you could replace the panel much like you would a broken windshield. Not so: Each of these 46 glass panels cost $250,000 each, with the same material used for the five-foot guardrail.
The Hualapai Indian Tribe, which manages the bridge, takes the probability of damage seriously, and insists that you put all personal electronics (digital cameras, cell phones, iPods, camcorders and the like) in a locker. You are also required to wear cloth booties over your shoes.
So, what to do? Several things. The Tribe has hired a corps of professional photographers to take your picture. These individuals are insured and specifically trained to take photos under these conditions. There are also self-serve cameras fixed to the guard railing. Images from both can be purchased for around $30 each in the main gift shop.
You don't have to be on the Skywalk to take a picture of it. I've seen a lot of great photos taken just south of the attraction - travelers typically pose on the edge with the Skywalk to the right of their shoulder. If you are taking a helicopter or airplane tour to the West Rim, you'll have plenty of fantastic aerial photo opportunities.
Since it's opening in 2007, more than a million people have visited the glass bridge. Today, more than 200,000 people visit it annually. The bridge is located in Grand Canyon West, a 9,000-acre expanse just 120 miles east of Las Vegas. Many people choose to rent a car and drive themselves. I personally recommend taking an all-inclusive tour. Skywalk trip costs can quickly mount if you do it yourself; package tours protect your travel budget.
There are plenty of Skywalk trip options. Bus, helicopter, and airplane tours take 2.5 hours, 45 minutes, and 25 minutes, respectively, to reach Grand Canyon West. The standard route includes Lake Mead, Hoover Dam (photo stop for bus travelers), and the upper Mojave Desert. For the best deals, I recommend that you book your tour online, where I've seen discounts up to 35 percent.
If you are looking for a great outdoor attraction, definitely consider the Grand Canyon Skywalk, especially when visiting Las Vegas. The Glass Bridge gets a lot of hype, but, unlike it's imitators, it delivers big time! But know that you will not be able to bring your camera. This caveat is because the bridge is made of incredibly expensive glass panels that will chip or scratch if you drop your camera. To remedy this, the Hualapai Indian Tribe has hired professionals to take your picture. They've also set up self-serve cameras. As you embark on this journey, remember this: Anyone can see the canyon. It's the lucky who "skywalk" it that have stories to tell...and the pictures to prove it.
The most unique way to experience the Grand Canyon? The Skywalk! Get the scoop. Read travel writer Keith Kravitz' tour reviews at: http://www.GrandCanyon123.com